VR Requirements

Say I were planning the purchase of a desktop computer. In the long run, I would want it to have the capability of hosting a good VR set, and run, say, Civ6 smoothly. And I would want to be able to order it from Newegg or Amazon or something, I don’t want to assemble it from pieces.

So, what hardware does my new desktop need? I hope is needs an SSD, I have always wanted one of those…

The major requirement is a high performance video card. A GTX 970 is considered the baseline, but the new NVIDIA Pascal chips (1070 and 1080) offer significant enhancements in the VR department and will be a better choice in the long run.

Beyond that, no strict requirements beyond those of a decent gaming computer. Personally, I’d think a Core i5 with 16 GB of RAM would be a decent base. An SSD is technically optional, and offers nothing for VR specifically, but for me, is an indispensable component of a modern computer.

The Oculus Rift requires USB 3.0 for optimum performance, but any modern system will have that. The HTC Vive doesn’t just needs USB 2.

Have you considered whether you want room-scale VR or sitting? Room-scale is very cool, but requires consideration to the physical layout of your room.

I have both an HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and can answer any questions you have about them.

Room scale I guess. I have seen demos of both- the sitting version seemed to have more intricate graphics, but the room has that extra level of immersion. I dunno, the room could be kind of strange as a regular hobby. The sitting too I guess. I want hardware that will handle the next iteration or two so I can wait and choose later.

Room-scale is “real” VR IMO. I was semi-convinced already, but having seen both the Vive and the Rift, I’ll go with the Rift.

As I said, the video card is the important bit. A GTX 1070 is an excellent choice; not just in raw speed, but it has some VR-specific features (I can’t comment on AMD). I don’t know what the next gen of headsets will be like exactly, but the 1070 should have enough headroom to last a while.

I don’t know much about pre-built systems; I’m more of a DIY guy. So I can’t really comment on brands or whatever. But the specs I mentioned should be a good start. You can skimp somewhat on the CPU, but not the GPU.

If you’re rich, buy an Alienware with GTX 970+ and another PCI-E x16 port for future expansion. 2 or 3 years from now you can buy the same graphics card for probably $100-$200 and hook it up to your current one for maybe a 40% performance boost. Alienware machines are vastly overpriced, but they have been around forever and are tailored towards gamers. Dell bought them a while back but retained the separate branding.

If you’re moderately well off but not rich, try Falcon Northwest or CyberPowerPC or iBuyPower or Origin PC. These are still overpriced but not as much as Alienware, and they are targeted to gamers.

Try not to buy standard Dell/HP/Lenovo/etc. machines because they use sub-tier components and aren’t very future proof, even with a GPU, and their cases and wiring tend to be harder to work with. Not impossible, mind you, just not as nice as the gaming rigs.

In the end though, almost all the components are commodities. Any i5/i7 rig with 8+ GB of RAM, 500W+ power supply, a SSD and a 970+ that you throw in should be fine for a year or two. SSDs will help with load times, but not framerates (unless there’s a lot of lazy-loaded textures).

Many of those brands, especially Alienware, will rip you off with RAM upgrades. You can often save 50% or more on RAM upgrades if you go with the lowest one they offer and just buy more sticks on Amazon, separately. It’s a 5-minute self-install by opening up your case and throwing in the new sticks.

There is little to no reason to get an i7 over an i5. Save the money for another GPU, now or later.

PS: A 970 is already too slow for many AAA games at High/Ultra resolutions at the VR-suggested frame rates. Should be fine as long as you’re willing to play around Medium settings or lower. Or get 2 in SLI, or the 1080s.

Is a 970 a “minimum system requirement” in the typical way that term is used i.e.: it runs but not well enough to enjoy it all that much?

Does VR increase processing more than memory bandwidth requirement or vice versa?
Can the Vive and the Rift use keyboard and mouse as controllers? You can’t see them but then again, I’m typing thise sentence with my eyes closed. (didn’t do too badly)

It’s “minimum” in the typical way, i.e. it all depends on what software you’re running.

Not sure what this means.

Why do you care? The Vive comes with very good VR controllers. I can’t think of any advantage of standard mouse & keyboard over the Vive controllers.

Not quite. One slightly odd aspect of VR is that it gets dramatically worse if you don’t meet the 90 hz target (this is in stark contrast to non-VR games, where it’s not all that bad if your 60 hz dips to 30 on occasion). Developers know this, and plan for it. And they seem to have mostly agreed that the 970 is the baseline. So, for the most part, it should look pretty good.

Of course if you want maximum quality, you need to go higher–but in terms of it feeling like a good experience, a 970 is sufficient. One interesting thing I’ve found is that basic shader effects that we’ve gotten used to, like brushed metal or puddles of water, look really good in VR. The stereo effect actually increases their quality substantially. So even dialed-down special effects look really good.

Not a totally well-formed question, but maybe you’re asking about GPU math vs. bandwidth horsepower. I’d say they’re about the same proportion as normal games.

Game and “experience” type apps will use the bundled controllers–the Rift with an Xbox gamepad, and the Vive with the dual motion-tracked controllers. As you might expect, the Vive controllers are vastly better and almost feel like replacement “hands”.

Some apps may use the keyboard/mouse. Steam has a VR desktop mode where you can see your desktop as a virtual screen. As you predicted, not being able to see your keyboard is not all that bad for touch typists. Also, the Vive has a HMD-mounted camera that could show where your hands are.

Yeah. I was impressed by the quality of depth. VR seemed able to clearly represent galactic distances if it wanted, or a very clear sense of distance in close-quarters.

Concerning the new VR-technologies of the GTX 10 series:

Over here http://www.geforce.com/hardware/desktop-gpus/geforce-gtx-970 and here http://www.geforce.com/hardware/technology/vr/supported-gpus the GTX 970 is described as having Virtual Reality and Ansel techs. Is that right?

The GTX 10 series is great at VR by sharing the geometry-building and texture-mapping phases for both eyes instead of doing it separately for each eye, correct? I.e.: instead of going through the whole pipeline for the right eye and then going through the whole pipeline again for the left eye, it goes through the pipeline once up to rasterization, at which point the process splits and it does rasterization and fragment shading for each eye, possibly at the same time. Have I got it right? If the 970 has the same tech, does that mean the 970 benefits from the same synergies when it comes to VR?

Can the 970 do VRWorks Audio with the quasi-ray-traced reverbs and everything?

It says so right on the page but I’m having some difficulty believing it.
Is there any tech the 10 Series can do that the GTX 970 and above cannot?

There’s no functional difference between Maxwell and Pascal cards–or Kepler or Fermi, for that matter. It’s all about performance. Pascal can effectively render both eyes at once so it saves in geometry workload and some other factors (not texture, though). Kepler can’t do this.

The 970 is advertised as VR ready because it’s considered the perf baseline for VR, not because it has any particular VR features. For the new stuff you need Pascal.

Ansel is just a driver feature and should work everywhere, though I’m sure there’s some architectural cutoff (dunno what that is). Same with VRWorks Audio; it should work on anything with compute shader support (i.e., everything).

Not just the depth of objects, but the “depth of reflection”. Look at any semi-shiny object, even ones without a clear reflection (like brushed metal or matte plastic), and if you move around you can see that the lighting changes with the change in position. You get the same effect with stereo vision, and it really adds to the quality of various materials.

Have you seen the robot repair demo on the Vive? That was one where I was particularly impressed with how the materials looked despite being relatively simple.

You probably meant to say you’d go with the Vive?

Personally, having had my Vive for a week, I’m blown away by the technology but am so fed up with the bloody cable! I keep stepping on it and twisting it over time. I may spring for a backpack PC if/when it comes out.

Uh, yes. I swear I make that mistake at least 50% of the time.

I agree about the cable. I was actually part of an almost-serious startup to make a wireless VR setup. It’s just about possible with state of the art radios (60 GHz) and modest image compression. It proved too difficult for the experience set we had, but maybe someone else will do it. Also, the next-gen headsets will probably blow away our bandwidth limit.

The backpack PC idea isn’t a bad one… especially since you don’t need a screen, keyboard, etc. Basically just battery and motherboard. And really, the battery doesn’t need to last that long.

How do you think the next generation of headsets will improve on the current generation? When do you think they’ll start coming out?

Do materials which use refraction or subsurface scattering benefit as much?

Get a Vive, not Oculus. The software part of Vive is done by the most consumer-friendly and generally best gaming company on the planet. The Oculus is funded by facebook, reports back to facebook about your VR experiences and what’s going on in your computer, and tries to force exclusivity whereas the Vive embraces open standards and letting anyone do anything with their hardware. The Vive can do everything the Oculus can do, but it has room-space VR on top of that with some very good and immersive motion controllers.

Don’t spend $800+ on a rig and then $600+ on a VR headset and then cheap out for the last $200 and be using facebook hardware. Plus when/if Oculus gets their room-scale VR stuff out, you’ll end up paying $150 for it anyway, making the price difference trivial, but the Vive will have much more room space stuff already out there supported and with the kinks worked out.

Also, do not get the 970. We’re on the verge of a big step up in video card efficiency and the 970 is old tech - soon to be overpriced and outdated. If your budget is $600, get a 1080. If it’s $400 get a 1070. If it’s $200 get a 480. There’s no price point at which the 970 makes sense unless you can’t just wait a month for those new cards to hit the market.

I don’t have any great insight here, but given that 4k screens in the right form factor already exist, I expect that’ll be the next step. It’s about 3x the pixel count of the current generation. I don’t see the need for any leaps in tech other than resolution. 90 hz refresh is good enough for now. And I’ve no idea on the when.

Well, there’s also HDR. I know even less about that end of things, aside from the fact that it looks good on fixed displays, and that properly done, it actually makes things easier on the GPU.

Probably, although I don’t recall seeing any subsurface techniques as of yet. Anything with a view dependence should benefit. Highly diffuse surfaces thus won’t benefit much (since diffuse is basically defined as view-independent). Reflections, refractions, and translucency should look good.

Best guess is early 2018, given what we’ve seen so far. The time between Rift DK2 and CV1 was almost two years, and the Vive prototype to consumer version was at least 1.5 years. I’d expect the next step for resolution to be either 1440P or 1600P, since 4K gaming at 90 HZ is going to be too demanding for some time yet. Maybe next-next-gen GPUs can pull it off.

How come it doesn’t save on textures? I thought the pipeline overall went Shaders - Texture Mapping Units - ROPs - Shaders, no?

What happens when a VR game increases the FOV to say, 150 or 180 degrees?

Presuming something like a 40% improvement per generation, that would mean the 12 series would have about twice the performance. Upping from 1200P to 1600P would require not-quite twice the performance although with more detailed lighting/texture maps/physics/etc the performance increase will likely equal the requirements increase.
To those who’ve tried it, is the resolution still too low sometimes?

Is there a notable difference in experience between 90 fps and 120 or 144?

That would probably be easier for someone to answer if there existed a headset that has a higher refresh rate than 90 Hz. Although even 75 Hz works fine since they added asynchronous frames (I have a DK2 personally.), so I’d expect better gain from increasing the resolution since text especially is still hard to read on consumer headsets.